Have we ever talked about how I went from a fast food diet to Ari’s Menu? I could hardly boil water. My dad can’t even make spaghetti or boxes of Kraft mac & cheese. I grew up constantly eating out, and spent the first few years of college making grilled cheese sandwiches, heating up ramen noodles, and in the Jack in the Box drive through.
When I moved home from Idaho, I had sparked an interest in cooking. I graduated to Hamburger Helper. It’s funny now, but I loved the stuff. I would swap out my ground turkey, and for me, that was “healthy cooking”. I guess I’ve come a long way in the last few years. Just ask my mother in law about the time I tried to make gravy….
When the thought occurred to make taco mac & cheese, I didn’t realize that it was so similar to the Hamburger Helper I started out on, but it is similar–just a whole lot better. Real foods, tons of lean protein, and whole grains. Plus, it’s so simple that there is really no reason to cook from a box ever again!
I made this for Steve and Jason to rave reviews. I’m pretty sure Jason ate 3 bowls. Then I gave Steve’s mom the leftovers when she came over for lunch, and she’s been asking when I’m going to post the recipe ever since.
All of the flavors of macaroni and cheese mixed with bold spicy taco seasonings topped with creamy avocado for the perfect final touch. I loved this dinner so much I made it again not even a week later! That is unheard of for me.
My favorite thing about this dish is it really represents everything I feel like this blog stands for–simple comfort food made healthy. That’s the whole reason I started cooking–I didn’t want to give up foods like tacos and mac & cheese.
Taco Mac & Cheese
yield 6-8 servings
- 1-2 tsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 bell red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 lb lean ground turkey or beef (I used 99% ground turkey breast)
- salt and pepper
- 8 oz whole grain macaroni (whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa….whatever works for you)
- 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
- 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp taco seasoning
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- couple dashes hot sauce
- 2/3 cup shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
- sliced avocado and chopped cilantro for serving
- In a large pan over medium heat, saute onion, bell peppers, and garlic until tender, about 10 minutes. Add turkey and season with salt and pepper (about a pinch of each). Cook until turkey is browned, then remove from heat.
- In a medium pot, cook macaroni according to package instructions.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot, whisk together cream cheese and almond milk over medium-low heat until combined. Whisk in greek yogurt, taco seasoning, lime juice, and hot sauce. Stir in cheddar cheese until melted and combined.
- Stir turkey and veggies into sauce, then stir in cooked and drained pasta.
- Top with sliced avocado and fresh chopped cilantro.